Eleventh-year quarterback Eli Manning is "far ahead" of his ankle recovery schedule, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Even though Giants general manager Jerry Reese had declared Manning out for spring workouts, head coach Tom Coughlin said he is "not surprised at all" that Manning is already on the field (per Schwartz), participating at an eager and able level.
"It’s very important for me to be out there," Manning told the Post.
He's talking about workouts during voluntary organized team activities, but you'd think he's commenting on his availability for the conference championship.
Manning is a professional, but his performance a season ago screamed the contrary. Last season was embarrassing for Manning as well as the rest of the Giants. Now, he invites Ben McAdoo's fresh scheme with enthusiasm not often found in 33-year-old quarterbacks. He told the Post:
This year, having a new offense definitely made me want to be out with the team, out running plays. Just little things, calling plays in the huddle, hearing the play called and having to visualize it quickly and if you miss part of the call, be able to kind of figure out what it just by knowledge of the offense. All those things were important.
It is this exact attitude that makes Manning the consummate starter. A decade into his career, Manning still treats practice as reverently as the playoffs. He wants to be on the field throwing and handing off the ball, no matter the capacity. He is counted on, win or loss, to quarterback his team, as he has done it now for 151 consecutive games, the league's longest active streak by a quarterback.
This isn't a rededication to the game; it's Eli with new, better-fitting pieces of the puzzle surrounding him. The same Eli that swallowed the pain of a significant shoulder injury early in a Super Bowl-bound 2007 campaign. The same Eli that was cornered into calling himself "elite," then backed up his rare boast with a second Super Bowl title.
If Manning was backed against a wall before, he now finds himself dangling from a cliff.
Beneath him? A rocky fall from grace and a valley full of has-beens.
This is the situation in which Manning truly thrives.
McAdoo, who is only three years Manning's elder, will like having a veteran quarterback as his on-field extension. Both men have something to prove in 2014—McAdoo, that he can cut it as an offensive coordinator in the NFL; Manning, that he can once again quarterback a winning team.
Manning's fit as the team's starter is more guaranteed than that of a Men's Wearhouse suit, and no pathetic ankle sprain will keep him from gobbling up as many first-team reps as possible. Now, paired with a young, up-and-coming offensive mind, Manning could tap a secondary talent reservoir, unlocking a late-career surge.
I'm willing to bet the old dog can learn more than a few new tricks.